Sometimes it just goes that way. Just when you think you have it all figured out, everything changes. Just when you think you've conquered all your obstacles, another gets in your way. If you don't believe me, just ask the WVU football team.
It was all there for them. Number 1 in the BCS following a Missouri loss. A spot in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. And a lifetime of stories from fans who will forever remember your name for delivering them to the promised land. And then Pittsburgh steps in your way and completely alters your destiny.
Perhaps this is what one gets when they "count their eggs..." WVU fans were prepared to travel to New Orleans on January 7th. They were deciding who they would rather face: a Missouri team that would setup an unusual championship game or a Ohio State team that got burned a year ago by Florida and a fast offense. Pittsburgh was just a foregone conclusion. There was no way the Panthers could possibly stop one of the most prolific offenses in college football. And, even more to West Virginia's advantage, it was a Pitt team coached by a perinnial loser named Dave Wannstedt.
But then Pitt did the unexpected. They stopped one of the most prolific offenses in college football...repeatedly. West Virginia turned the ball over and missed field goal opportunities. The savior of so many games, Pat White, went down injured. The dynamic duo of Slaton and Devine couldn't get started. While the WVU defense played admirably, the WVU offense struggled to stay on the field. WVU mustered only 7-points. And those were courtesy of a stupid Pitt personal foul penalty. The Pitt offense ran the clock and kept the dangerous WVU offense off the field. WVU ran only 4 plays in the entire 3rd quarter.
The crowd? Stunned. Six years ago, WVU hosted Temple in Rich Rodriguez's first year as coach. It was a close game and Temple led 17-14 late in the game. But everyone pretty much believed WVU would score late and beat the hapless Owls. But it never happened and West Virginia lost to Temple. That was the last time I had felt a crowd with the same temperment as the crowd at Milan-Puskar this Saturday. Surely the Mountaineers would find a way to score late to win this game against the Panthers. But it never happened. Fourth-and-three, but we only get two yards when it matters most.
Pitt runs out the clock and the crowd slowly and silently exits Puskar Stadium. A smattering of boos and profanity ring out from some. Wandering aimlessly back to their cars, the fans are just wanting to get home. There are many cancelling hotel reservations as I type this. Others are pondering what they are going to do with those non-refundable plane tickets. They had to make arrangements for that title game because Pitt was just a foregone conclusion.
The 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl was definitely a memorable one. It could go down as the most sour loss in Mountaineer history. On the cusp of history only to be held to 9-points by Dave Wannstedt and his losing team. West Virginia will still play in a BCS bowl despite the loss but it won't be for a national title...even if Pitt was just a foregone conclusion.